Archive for Jan-Aug 2010

Vancouver Pride

3 August 10: I was honoured by be asked by my pals from t-bodies to man their booth during the Pride Parade on Sunday. It was a beautiful time. And it really hit the spot.

I really liked Teno Kostopoulos

25 July 10: Another passing: Teno Kostopoulos, a good buddy of mine who managed my building for a number of years. During what turned out to be our final conversation, Teno told me how much he loved living here, in our building, The Vivian, and in Vancouver; how, despite his infirmities (he couldn’t walk up and down the stairs anymore), he would never retire. Teno could get cranky — the last time I woke him up because I had lost my keys and was stuck outside, he noted tartly, “Basil, this bullshit has got to stop” — but he made sure we had a friendly building. One way he did so, by the way, was by welcoming tenants who had pets. “Tenants who have pets are happier tenants,” he would say. “You come home and if your day’s been shitty, there’s your cat or dog waiting for you and you feel better already.” I will miss you dearly, Teno, and remember you happily.

John Fraser

18 July 10: My very dear friend, John Ross Fraser, died earlier this week. I loved him, as I do his wife, Monica, and two sons, Christopher and Patrick. With Monica’s help, I wrote his obituary:

“FRASER, John Ross Born June 27, 1942, in Vancouver, BC, and died July 13, 2010, at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, after a courageous struggle with tongue cancer, surrounded by his two beloved sons, Christopher and Patrick, and his wife of thirty-five very happy years, Monica. John was an esteemed exploration geologist who worked and won friends around the world. For those who worked with him, John set the highest standard of professionalism. He had a brilliant mind and a kind heart and treated everybody with warm consideration and dignity. He was a great mentor, in his industry as well as in his community. For the North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association, for more than ten years he managed teams, organized tournaments, and looked after visitors who came from other nations to complete with the locals. The family would like to thank Dr. Scott Durham of VGH and Dr. Peter Edmunds and the Peacock Group of North Vancouver for their help in this hard time. Services and a reception will be held at Boal Chapel, Saturday, July 17, 1:30 – 4:30 PM, at 1505 Lillooet Rd. in North Vancouver.In addition to his wife and sons, John is survived by his brothers Donald and Peter Fraser, their families, and his aunts and uncles and their families who live all over Canada. Another celebration of John’s life will be held by the Coast Mountain Group of Companies on September 9th in Vancouver. In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for contributions made to your local palliative care organizations or the Cancer Society.”

For the next month or so John’s friends and colleagues can sign his online guestbook here.

At his services yesterday my brother, Christopher, John’s long-time friend Tom Schroeder, and I spoke. I sure do wish I had the text of my brother’s beautiful series of profound, vivid, and spiritual vignettes, but I am sure these were composed without paper or pen, and the services weren’t recorded. My own remarks were very short, and largely taken from a piece included in a Festschrift I made, with his son Christopher, for John’s birthday last year. I needed a manuscript and something short, so that I neither wept nor fainted.

“For years John and Monica invited me into their art-filled home for their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I always came early and sat in the kitchen drinking fine Scotch, talking with them while they prepare their great Hams and Turkeys and their wonderful Finnish side-dishes. Their two sons, Chris and Patrick, then would show up, usually with spectacularly beautiful women by their sides, and with their bright and worldly wise friends. These holiday evenings always featured delightful and super smart discussion about everything. Sometimes people sang. We laughed our heads off! We typically ended these evenings with some shots of Finnish drinks made from tiny berries that provide unique hangovers. Lakka!!! I love John and Monica and these boys. Being invited into the Fraser family has been one of the most wonderful things that have ever happened to me.

“John and Monica had a great love affair – something we all aspire to, most never get. John woke up every morning thinking how lucky he was to have gotten the best girl. Monica, you woke up every morning and said the same thing to yourself, but in a lovely different language.

“John’s Coast Mountain family – Heather, Gary and Chris, and June, and so many – looked up to John, and in many ways were cut out of the same cloth. I have trusted them all with my life. And still do.”

This social media module turned out to be quite the bear …

4 July 10: I’ve been spending a fair amount of my “free time” preparing a two-day P.D. module on “social media” (not the most felicitous phrase) for faculty in Kwantlen’s Marketing Management department, which is launching its B-BAMM degree (Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing) this fall. I was honoured to be asked. I’m no expert on the topic, actually, in that I have not studied it systematically. Rather, I have long been happily immersed in certain zones of the social media-sphere: my website, Twitter-feed, Facebook groups, Tumblr and Flickr sites, and so on. Note to self: Make sure to to start with an arrogant “profession of humility.” (See post from 19 April 10.)

Got to this eventually …

26 June 10: Starting in July, basil.CA will be published as a WordPress rather than as a Mac site. I’m looking forward to the change; I’m looking forward to learning *how* to make the change, actually. It seems straightforward, and I already have put together the skeleton of the new site. Bells and whistles next. Goal: To bring back the all-over-the-place content targets of the original site, but with a hyper-lucid feel. Stay tuned!

Summer Promises

20 June 10: Boy, I’ve been a ghost here recently. It’s summer, and my plate is crowded otherwise: I have my three upper-level Kwantlen classes working hard; one new requirement this year is that they contribute to a blog addressing professional communications: Check it out (lots of good stuff). With my partners at the Community-University Research Alliance’s “Acting Together” project, I am working to re-do our website and launch various knowledge dissemination initiatives. With a colleague, I’m preparing a two-day Social Media module for instructors in the Marketing Department. And: I’m playing with my iPhone blog and keeping up to date with my Facebook friends. And tweeting.

More actual real material soon, I promise.

Summer School

28 May 10: In terms of teaching, summer has always been the busiest part of the year for me. I love this season’s vibe at Kwantlen: It’s flip-flops time, the sun’s still up when the night classes get out, and the students are especially committed. (You can read the nifty Tumblr blog and twitter feed this semester’s communications students have created. And here’s a Facebook Group, too.)

Other school news: My colleagues in the Applied Communications department have elected me as the new chair; I am deeply grateful for the confidence they’ve shown in me. This is a “time release” position; that means I will be teaching two fewer classes per year; and that means the news is bittersweet.

Two kinds

21 May 10: There are two kinds of people: People who find the course of their lives profoundly absorbing, and then people for whom the lives of others seem more worthy of attention than their own. Long-time basil.CA readers know that I’m in the latter category; a good many of my friends are in the former. I find my interests interesting; myself, not so much. This explains why I am drawn to teaching, editing, and publishing.

Still, this *is* my website, so I might as well put in a word about myself, in terms of who I am rather than what I’ve done (the latter is what the resume is for). Here goes: I don’t want to own a house or condo, or land, or a car, or stocks and bonds; I don’t want to have more friends; I don’t want to be thin or have enough hair to comb; I don’t crave the esteem of others, though I used to; I also don’t crave longevity, and never have; nobody knows my real views on religion or government, or ever will; in my youth I was obsessed by hitch-hiking because I had to have surprise destinations and conversations with strangers; and Vancouver is the love of my life.

Resources for Communications Students

8 May 10: Here’s part of what’s coming up for my students this summer. I’m teaching three upper-level professional communications classes.

Whistler Guys Study

20 April 10: One of the great pleasures of being a part of the Acting Together project is working with Jennifer Matthews, a researcher at UBC. Jennifer has an MSc in Health Promotion Studies from the University of Alberta. Her thesis detailed the sex-and-drugs habits of young men who party in Whistler, BC. The website devoted to this research is one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to conveying academic work in an engaging and truly lucid manner.

Jonathan Mayhew is a Wonderful Thinker (and Writer) about Writing

19 April 10: I met Jonathan Mayhew at Stanford University in 1982 in a seminar on William Carlos Williams taught by the late Gil Sorrentino. (There were many bright lights in that class, including Joseph Conte, Brett Millier, and Maria Damon, who have all achieved considerable academic distinction.) Essays Jonathan and I wrote for that seminar later appeared in the book William Carlos Williams: Man and Poet. If I remember correctly (I don’t own a copy), mine was a tad bit pretentious and derivative; Jonathan’s was bright, new, and clear as a bell. With that essay, Jonathan became one of my favourite writers.

One of the great joys of recent years has been watching how prolific Jonathan has become. In 2009 alone he published two books (Apocryphal Lorca and The Twilight of the Avant-Garde) and started a blog devoted to jazz — this on top of posting regularly on his flagship blog ¡Bemsha SWING!

Recently I was invited to contribute to his newest blog, Stupid Motivational Tricks: Scholarly Writing and How to Get it Done. Before my summer classes start, I hope to do so. It will be an honour to have my stuff appear next to writing like this, a riff on captatio benevolentiae (a rhetorical gesture to win the good will of one’s audience):

One way of beginning an article or talk is by making a profession of humility. We’ll call this a CB for short. Adeptly handled, this technique presents the speaking self of the article or book chapter as attractively modest, but without undercutting his or her authority. In other words, the audience understands that it is being seduced by the profession of modesty, but also understands that the modesty is a rhetorical device. There is an article by Derrida in The Translation Studies Reader (ed Venuti) that was originally a talk given to a professional association of translators. Derrida goes on and on at the beginning about how unqualified he is; he knows less about the subject (translation) than his own audience. Yet this CB does nothing, ultimately, to undercut his actual talk. Once he get into his main points he leaves behind this posture of modesty completely. Derrida is not a modest writer in the least.

I’ve seen people completely undercut their own authority by apologizing in a way that makes the audience think, “hey, he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.”

The paradox, then, is that the CB must be performed arrogantly enough so that it is transparently false. It must not be taken literally, but as a rhetorical ploy.


The Socratic dialogue is based on a profession of ignorance, but Socrates uses that ignorance (known as Socratic irony) as a form of rhetorical jujitsu, lulling his interlocutors into thinking he is going to be easy to debate. The CB is also rhetorical jujitsu. It’s got to be performed from a stance of strength, not weakness.

Kwantlen Fashion Show

13 April 10: The fashion show put on by graduates of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fashion Design program is always a big event. It’s being held tomorrow afternoon and evening at the River Rock Casino Resort Theatre in Richmond, right on the Canada line.

Sister Sites

12 April 10: It’s been slim pickings around basil.CA of late, alas. There’s been somewhat more activity, though, at my sister sites: the Twitter feed and iPhone Blog.

Acting Together

25 March 10: Kwantlen’s Acting Together project has added several new video interviews with our community partners. I’ve found, in doing many of these, that our partners can say a whole lot in under a minute.


14 March 10: Domesticated animals are bred to trust. That’s why, when people hurt or abandon them, that’s worse than when people hurt other people, who learn the game, as it were, early on in their lives. We know, in some way, what’s coming at us. Pets don’t.


7 March 10: Happy birthday in Manhattan, Mom!

iPhone Olympics

28 Feb 10: My iPhone Olympics.


27 Feb 10: Roger Ebert is one of my favourite writers. Since he lost his ability to speak a few years ago, his writing has become (even more) dazzlingly prolific. In addition to his articles and his blog, Ebert has taken to Twitter with wonderful and brilliant energy.

Olympics in Vancouver

25 Feb 10: I’ve been so consumed with the Olympics (visiting with my son and his girlfriend, eating very well, and meeting great people) that, outside of emails to students and remarks on their assignments, I’ve been writing little of late.

Bad Olympics

15 Feb 10: You can get your anti-corporate-capitalist take on the Olympics and everything else at the Vancouver Media Coop.